If you've had your finger on the pulse of the trail-riding world over the last decade then Poison Spyder Customs is a familiar name. Poison Spyder's lineup of hardcore hardware deftly mixed no-nonsense trail function with an unmistakable sense of style. Success bred success and bred more success until one day owner Clifton Slay, found himself in the middle of something so big it had annihilated the fun factor. Determined to simplify his life, Slay reluctantly closed the Spyder web down in late '08. The company was just a memory until Larry and Cheri McRae decided that a living, breathing Poison Spyder was essential to the trail-riding world and that they were going to do something about it. The McRae's met with Slay, exchanged cash and handshakes, and Poison Spyder was back to life.
That same finger on the pulse of the trail-riding world should tell you that Larry McRae is no newcomer. Larry was one-half of the All-Pro Off-Road rock-crawling team that won the '03 rock-crawling championship, with Jon Bundrant at the wheel and Larry filling the spotter's role. "Although we were surrounded by Toyota rigs with All-Pro, we're longtime Jeep enthusiasts," Larry clarifies. The McRae's moved Poison Spyder's headquarters from Denver, Colorado, to Banning, California. Where's Banning? It's close to Johnson Valley and the Hammer trails: a peerless testing ground.
While Poison Spyder's lineup for older Jeeps was well-established, the JK product line was somewhat limited when Clifton closed the doors. This gave Larry and Cheri a chance to pick up where Slay had left off. We crossed paths with Poison Spyder at last October's Off-Road Expo, and arranged an afternoon on the rocks.
"We bought our JK as a test bed for new products," Larry explained. "Then we fell in love with it. We were going to keep it mild, but that's not what Poison Spyder is all about." As a result, the Spyder flagship includes one-off custom suspension, Currie RockJock Dana 60's, Poison Spyder Crusher front fenders, Crusher rear flares and corners, Poison Spyder Rocker Knockers, and an Atlas II transfer case, among other upgrades.
In Johnson Valley, the Spyder JK walked up Clawhammer with ease, thanks to the four-door's 117-inch wheelbase, flexy King-based coilover suspension, and the low gearing provided by the Atlas II. Besides prowess on the creepy-crawly stuff, the Jeep is respectably smooth at higher speeds through the rough, something we found on our trip between Means Dry Lake and the Clawhammer trail head. We weren't done. There was just enough sunlight for a late-afternoon assault on Backdoor. Backdoor's proximity to the main camping and parking area has nothing to do with its difficulty. Instead, Backdoor's proximity to camp means it's more convenient to put your wounded rig back on the trailer. We'll let the proverbial cat out of the bag: the Poison Spyder JK climbed the main waterfall on Backdoor sans winch. We don't know of another JK that has pulled this off.
Vehicle: 2007 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited
Owner: Larry and Cheri McRae
Hometown: Banning, California
Engine: 3.8L V-6
Transmission: Stock automatic
Transfer case/low range ratio: Atlas II/4.3:1
Front end: Currie Rock Jock 60 with Detroit Locker
Rear end: Currie Rock Jock 60 with ARB Air Locker
Ring and Pinion: 5.38:1
Suspension: Poison Spyder chromoly links with Johnny Joint ends, King coilover conversion in front, Off-Road Evolution Evo Lever in rear. Currie Anti-rock sway bars front and rear. Front and rear suspension travel is 14 inches.
Trail Tires & Wheels 40x14.50R18 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2s - 18x9 Jesse James Black Widow
Rocks Tires & Wheels 39x13.50R17 BFGoodrich Krawlers - 17x8.5 Walker Evans beadlocks